Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Friday – I’m Beginning to Feel the Difference!

Today was the first day I can say I truly feel like my life is now different – this isn’t vacation, it’s a whole new me.

Ken and I followed our normal morning ritual of coffee and outdoor breakfast and then hustled him in to Charleston to meet the boys so they could leave for the EIU Panthers Players Golf Championship by 10:30.

I had heard mixed signals on whether McDonald’s truly had free wifi, and so I stopped in to check it out. No, at least at the Charleston McDonalds, you have to be an AT&T wireless subscriber or else pay for the Internet access there. As it turned out, however, there were enough unsecured wireless signals I could pick up in the area that I was able at least for a little while to get on and check mails.

I’ve been exchanging emails on moving from our standard company health insurance over to COBRA and so found myself in another ongoing electronic interchange of how BCBS, COBRA and Medicare all must be juggled. Bottomline, we have to immediately put Ken on Part B now and based on my income from last year, we have to pay more than the $96 base, actually about $250 monthly…arghh!! It looks like that will also be the case in 2010 since that will be based on our 2009 taxable income which will include my severance. I had hoped we could stay on COBRA for 18 months but now we will likely not carry both since Ken does not qualify for the 65% stimulus reduction, meaning his monthly COBRA payment would be $400 a month. So now he will be on Medicare Parts A, B and D. I’m still studying the supplemental issue.

Ok, sorry I digressed. But I think medical costs and insurance are one of the top expenditures for most fulltime RVers and for manyfulltime ‘wannabe’s medical/insurance costs are one of the primary reasons they postpone their move to this lifestyle. Hopefully we’ll see at least some healthcare reform legislation past by year-end that will start to address this mess.

I spent quite a bit of time in McDonald’s, sitting in one of the single tables with bar stool, working on the laptop and people watching. Even though this McDonald’s is right by the EIU campus, the morning crowd seemed to be largely the senior citizen coffee klatch scene, followed at about 11:30 by Mom’s and kids meeting working Dad for lunch. I had a couple of people stop by to check out my Acer. It catches attention with its small size. However, for the most part, I felt like the invisible observer to a normal workday in a smalltown—I’m the strange kind who really gets in to that simple kind of experience.

James Larson (Pug), one of Trevor’s roommates from his first year at EIU, surprised me with a hug, and stopped for a few minutes of catch-up conversation. He was running in for a quick couple of burgers between his job and his study group. It was really nice to see him since he’s finished football so it’s a lot harder for Ken and me to keep up with those guys.

Next stop for me was WalMart. We had half dozen items or so on the list. It seems when we are on the road we just don’t consume as much of anything. The other thing I realized was that for the first time in as long as I can remember, I was taking my time shopping. How much are we paying per egg? What makes the Duracell batteries so much more expensive than the Rayovac? For many people this is the normal way to shop, but for me it seems I was ALWAYS in a hurry. While I tried to always be economical in my shopping before it was always a trade off with how much time I had. While I may not have the money now, at least I have the time to PAY attention! While Ken would question that such a thing is possible, I actually enjoyed my Walmart trip!

I went back to the RV to have lunch and walk the dogs. Then I pulled out a ‘project’ I hadn’t gotten to start yet. When we were moving Kyle, I noticed that one of his patchwork quilts from Grandma Frericks was in dire need of repair.

There were full squares missing and lots of little tears. Ken made an interesting observation – when I was so tied up in my work life, I would not even have noticed that quilt! Now I had the time to notice that something precious was in need of repair and have the luxury of giving it my attention.

Anyway, I had brought with me Kyle’s quilt and various scraps of cloth I had around the house. I needed to iron the seam ends of the new patches I was cutting so I had my first time in our 2 ½ years of RVing to pull out our ironing board and iron.

It was nice to see how conveniently it sets up on the pull-out kitchen cabinet.

While I worked at repairing the quilt, Sox and Ditka stayed at my feet, not used to having me alone in the RV with them for any extended period.

Since we don’t have satellite TV, a lot of the channels that come in here are PBS. My timing of turning on the TV was perfect since a PBS Time Team documentary just started about New Philadelphia and Free Frank McWorter. ‘New Philadelphia’ is the circa 1830 site that is the first planned integrated black/white community, organized by a freed black man, Frank McWorter. Ken and I have known for years that this site is less than 20 miles from our home but knew very little about it. The show was really enlightening and made my sewing time pass by very quickly and enjoyably. I was surprised that I even knew people on the show. They invited local spiritual singers who could help provide background on the types of oral history and music that might have been part of the community in the mid-1800’s. The ladies they talked to are both regular visitors to our Unity Church in Quincy. For more info on the documentary and New Philadelphia click here.

Working with my hands again, with the TV as background—this was the world I grew up in. If my Mom wasn’t in the kitchen cooking she was in her favorite chair, the TV on (usually to a Cardinals game or ‘As the World Turns’), with some kind of sewing in her hands. Those peaceful memories seemed to float all around me as I spent my quiet afternoon at the RV.
I used my last few hours before Ken got back for girlie stuff, taking a nice warm shower, doing my hair and makeup…just taking my time.

Maybe that’s what so perfect about the day…I realized I was taking my time, I was finally taking what was mine, my time, and I was enjoying every minute of it!

Hugs, C

Monday, July 27, 2009

Thursday – Travel Day

*** We were away from wifi for several days so you might see several of my backed up daily posts all at once so check older posts too! ***

As we ease in to this new lifestyle we also seem to be working our way toward the fulltimer’s Rule of Two’s:
Driving no more than 2 hours, arriving by 2pm and staying at least 2 days.

While the trip from JEPC to Charleston was more like 3 hours, we did arrive before noon and do plan to spend at least 2 days.

Since Trevor lifted at 10am and had class at 4pm, Ken had a limited window of opportunity to get in a practice round of golf with him.

We arrived at Fox Ridge State Park, which is beginning to feel like our home park, at about 10:30am and selected site 38 since it’s close to the shower house and has plenty of room for the dogs. We did minimal set up and then were in to Trevor’s house by 11:30. We took Trevor and Chris to Lincoln Garden’s for a quick lunch and then I left Ken with them and returned to the RV.

My sunburn had made it really tough to sleep the night before so my intent was to take a nap. I set up the awning, the outdoor chairs, and grill, scrubbed the picnic table to put out the table cloth. I took the dogs for a walk and then went inside to nap. Unfortunately, I’d been piddling around with the other stuff long enough that I no more than laid down when Ken was calling me to pick him back up!

After their class (Chris and Trevor are both on similar MBA tracks and so have a lot of the same classes), the guys brought out TBone steaks to do on the grill. Ken bought some firewood and we had a nice pleasant dinner at the campsite.

We all called it an early night since the guys had a 6am team run scheduled the next day.

Hugs, C

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wednesday at Panther Creek – Fishing and First Aid

*** We were away from wifi for several days so you might see several of my backed up daily posts all at once so check older posts too! ***

Wednesday we took our time with breakfast. It looked to be a sunny day so I put on a tank top in hopes of getting a little color on my deathly white shoulders. I walked back up to site one and spent some time checking emails.

I use Skype to stay in contact with some of my friends back at work and it seems they are always each in the midst of their own new work crisis every time we chat. They all worked for me. Those would all be my crises. Out here in the middle of the beautiful natural prairie, I take a deep breath of clear morning air and smile – boy, am I glad to be where I’m at!

I had only planned on being online for about 20 minutes but by the time I published the blog, worked through Ken’s email box and mine and chatted a bit, it was probably more like an hour. It’s very easy to get sucked in to this laptop and have hours fly by. That is one good thing right now about not having our own internet on the road. We are not tempted to lose hours to being online.

When I got back to the RV, Ken asked me to look at Ditka’s ear. Sure enough, even though we are faithful with their anti-flea and tick meds, Ditka had a tick in his ear. He was very good about letting me extract it with a tweezers, then Ken burned it. It’s surprising that even though the dogs had hardly been in to any wooded area, we are still dealing with ticks. This is why we aren’t letting the dogs on the bed and try to always check them over before bring them in from outside. With all the nasty diseases those things carry, Ken and I are both hyper about staying tick-free.

After lunch, we decided to try our luck at another lake in the park, Drake Lake.

I decided I’d gotten enough sun on my shoulders and went back to a Tshirt for the fishing outing along with the Tilley hat to protect my head, ears and nose which all seem to sunburn easily.
When we got there, the lake was deserted except for a man sitting in a canoe fishing by the dock. We noticed he was using his hands to move the canoe around which certainly didn’t get him very far. After talking to him, he said he’d gotten everything in the boat ready for a nice day of fishing and then realized he’d forgotten to bring paddles! Since we have two double paddles and the lake was small we left him borrow one of ours. I think we made his day!

We saw him at a distance only once the rest of the day. It was as if we had the lake to ourselves. There was nothing to hear or see that was not a part of nature. It’s as if we were there before man.

Ken was joking about being heep-big Indian brave in canoe with his faithful mate at his side, hunting for next meal. Yeah right, Indian brave in his high-tech inflatable SeaEagle, with a Diawa fishing reel, while ‘mate’ is laying out sunning in the back with her latest Nora Robert’s romance novel. I have to admit though his fantasy wasn’t hard to get in to if you kept your eyes beyond the boat.

We did come across what we think was the nesting place of a green heron.

This is most likely the mama.

With the exception of the brightness of their long yellow legs, the youngsters were a pretty homely crew,

And the way the stretched their necks as we got closer made them even less attractive!

When we got back to camp we checked them out against our Peterson Field Guide. If anyone sees that we’ve mis-identified, let us know. We are really birdwatching rookies but do find it fascinating.

Ken had lots of nibbles and did catch another small bass. Wow-his catch for 2009 has now doubled that of 2008. Two!

It was wonderfully relaxing for me on the back of the boat. I had room to fully stretch out in the sun and enjoy my book, just slightly interrupted by Ken’s discussions with the fish in the lake or when he roused me to point out something along the shore.

I was surprised when we got back to the RV, to see that it was already past 5:00. The 4 hours we spent on the lake had seemed more like an hour. I guess it’s true what they say that when you’re doing something you love you lose track of time.

I got another surprise when I checked myself out in the mirror. While I showed no signs of sunburn from the fishing trip, there was a clear outline of the tank top I’d worn earlier in the morning and the skin on my chest, back and shoulder was beet red, hot and very sore. By letting my 20 minutes of internet extend to almost an hour I’d caused myself a pretty nasty sunburn. At the same time, my legs that had been exposed all day had no sunburn – probably because on the lake went in and out of shade all day. Shortly after that on the local news we heard that today had been an unusually high UV index day with sunburn in as little as 15 minutes – what timing I have!

Luckily, we had Aloe Solarcaine along because I was really hurting by bedtime.
Ken had his own ‘medical emergency’ when he called me in after his shower to help remove a teeny-tiny tick that had found its way to his upper thigh. Did I mention that Ken REALLY hates ticks, make that REALLY, REALLY hates ticks! Again there was another sacrificial tick burning ceremony.

If we were to get to Charleston on Thursday so Ken could get in a practice round of golf with Trevor and his roommate Chris, we’d have to make an early start. That meant that by the time we went to bed we had everything ready to move and even had the jeep hooked up before we went to bed.

Despite the ticks and sunburn, job-hazards of the lifestyle I suppose, we had a wonderful time here at JEPC and will definitely try to get back here.

Hugs, C

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Panther Creek – Pedals and Paddles

On Tuesday, July 21, we had a leisurely morning and then about 11am headed out for the 9-mile paved bike path. To kick things off with a little added adventure we decided to use part of the mountain bike path as a shortcut to our own path trailhead. That was a memorable 6 -8 blocks, up and down hills, through the timber and over a bridge.

It was a good reminder to me that I’ve lost my touch on being ‘at one’ with my bike, especially on the downhill sides where there seemed to be no end to the ruts and the roots to be negotiated.

The paved path itself was wonderful, well, perhaps with the exception that it wasn’t all downhill. It was as if we had the entire 26 square mile conservation area all to ourselves except for the plentiful wildlife. We spied many deer along the way.

These two fawns didn’t seem particularly concerned about us coming upon them as they continued their grazing.

We also came across a mama turkey and her young ones but they weren’t nearly as interested in standing still for a photo.
At times the creek was running at our side along the path.

At other times we crossed it.

The highlight of the ride was the long downhill stretches through woods. Suddenly you’re a kid again with the wind in your face, the heat of the hill being replaced by the coolness that reaches up to meet you in the valley.

We actually biked about 12 miles when you include the ride to and from the trail to our site and the time off path to bike to a scenic overlook. When we got back to the RV, I fixed the Magnolia Salad I mentioned in the last blog and we took it easy for the rest of the afternoon.

After supper we decided to get our boat out. Like the bikes it hadn’t seen much action this past year. JEPC has 3 lakes so we decided to start with the largest which was right at the campground, Prairie Lake.

I’ve decided to hold off again this year on getting a fishing license so I was the official paddler while Ken pointed me toward the best sites. After about ½ hour of nothing but some playful nibbles, Ken decided to pull out his ‘secret weapon’, a disgusting smelling spray called ‘Yum’ that he puts on the lore.

It wasn’t long and he had a little bass who apparently liked the Yum a lot more than I did. Ok, Ken has now caught as many fish this year as he did last – one!

Despite a few sprinkles of rain, it was a lovely evening for fishing and to watch the sunset across the lake.

Hugs, C

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Monday - On the Road Again!:

It was less than a week since our last RV outing but Ken and I were both getting hitch itch. For years when heading east across Illinois, we had driven by a sign pointing to Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Park and Recreation area. Ken’s brother, Michael and wife, Jean, had camped there and gave it a thumbs-up so we chose this as our next destination.

We decided to get there the long way via Carlinville. While in Quincy over the weekend, our son Kyle had snagged a great buy on patio furniture but the large glass table top he bought didn’t fit well in the Honda Pilot, Jenni’s vehicle they had driven from Carlinville. We were all concerned about whether it would make the 2 hour trip back to Carlinville without breaking. Ken and I volunteered instead to give it a nice soft ride on the top of our motorhome bed.

We didn’t leave Quincy until about 11am on Monday. Kyle’s girlfriend, Jenni, was at his house to meet us as we dropped the table off on his covered patio in Carlinville at 1:30. Since there was really no place on streets by Kyle to park the motorhome we made it a very quick stop not even turning off the motor. We then headed north and made it to the Prairie Lake Campground at JEPC by about 4:00.

This campground is definitely in the middle of nowhere. Of course since Jim Edgar Panther Creek is huge – 26 square miles, most of the ‘nowhere’ is part of the park! The park has only been in existence since 1999 which is new by park standards. We were surprised based on this that there are very limited number of full hookup and 50 amp sites.

It’s more like camping in a well maintained yard than in the normal heavily wooded areas we are use to in Illinois State Parks.

The shower houses are well laid out and very clean and playground neat and still looking new. The sites are mostly long and level, although the choice spots overlooking the lake were not full hookup and only 30 amp.

While we picked site 38 which was full hookup and 50 amp, we’ve decided that next time we’ll opt for a site either along the woods or with a view of the lake.

We’ve learned that we can make it comfortably at least 5 days on our tanks, especially if there is water close enough to hook up to if we exceed our 95 available gallons fresh water. If we are going to push it on our gray tank then I simply use basins in the sink and shower to catch water and discard. At nice parks, Ken actually prefers going to the shower house where he has lots of room, and lots of soak time with plenty of water pressure. The only reason we need 50 amp is for the second air conditioner. Even when it’s hot, we can restrict to the main area A/C during the day and the bedroom A/C at night and be comfortable.

Another lesson learned for us is the importance of the direction our RV is facing when shade is at a premium. We are definitely outdoor people and seldom cook or sit inside. Even breakfast is usually cooked in our electric skillet out under the awning. Because of the summer sun and heat we’ve found our RV lifestyle demands plenty of late afternoon shade under the awning. Sitting having coffee in the early morning sunshine is something we like to do, even when at home on the back deck. You know – get in that daily dose of Vitamin D when it’s still too early to worry about sunscreen. Our compass had apparently been knocked off kilter when Ken did the dashboard fixes last week and we hadn’t noticed. For that reason and since it was overcast when we parked he selected a site that he thought would have us facing mostly north, when instead we were facing mostly west with little shade morning or night…now we know how important getting these directions right is to us…and will recalibrate the compass before next trip as well!

There are two campground host sites. We were surprised to find out that the main loop host was onsite year-round and, in fact, was now on his second year of living their full-time. He had wifi rigged up from his site which reached the first 11 sites.

I walked down a couple of times during our stay to check emails. In fact, that is where the prior blog was published from.

The temperatures were really mild – highs upper 70’s, lows in the 60’s -- so we were able to sleep with the windows open, enjoying the sound of the breeze through the cottonwoods.
It had been a while since we had carried our bikes along. Since we still had Kyle’s Trek at our house, Ken cheated and brought that bike for himself rather than his own 40-year old bike. We had been told that there were some good bike paths in the park and were not disappointed.
More on that in tomorrow’s blog.

Hugs, C

Monday, July 20, 2009

This n That to Catch Up - July 13th – 20th

Ok, since I’ve not posted since Sox ate the Motorhome, let’s catch up a bit.

On Monday, July 13th, we were still in Carlinville. On our morning walk, Kurt, one of the park attendants at Beaver Dam told us about a new restaurant in Carlinville, so we decided to give it a try for lunch.

Magnolia’s is a neat little restaurant in an old restored schoolhouse in the heart of Carlinville. Click here for their menu, hours and photos. The two guys that own the place have also been restoring the old Catholic church that’s attached and live in that. The service was great. Ken and I both had the Magnolia Signature Salad served with warm homemade rolls.
We liked these so well that I took a shot at replicating back home and have provided the basic recipe here. The picture is from the at-home attempt which was a hit with Ken.

Cindy’s version of Magnolia’s Signature Salad

For two salads:

1 Romaine heart, chopped (I think the restaurant also added Spring Greens as well)

¼ cup Gorgonzola or Blue Cheese, crumbled

¼ cup Pecans or Walnuts, chopped

¼ cup dried cranberries

About 8 sliced strawberries

Poppy seed dressing

(They offered this with added option of grilled chicken topping but we didn’t go for that though might try it at home next time).

Monday afternoon Ken moved Kyle’s mailbox which was rather haphazardly posted in his yard and attached it to the pillar on the front porch.

Jenni and Kyle made us supper at Kyle’s before Kyle had to head out to a soccer practice. He is working with one of the partner’s brother coaching an 8th grade team.

On Tuesday, Ken and I packed up and headed home. Since the blower wasn’t working yet, we kept the generator running so we could use the coach air conditioning.

We were surprised to find the mailbox crammed with mail since it wasn’t supposed to be off hold until Wednesday. That pile of mail kept us busy for several hours and since we hadn’t had consistent internet access this was also time for catching up on emails.

Our gift to Trevor for his graduation was to be a new laptop. He and Ken decided that he really liked Ken’s laptop which was only about a year old and Ken wanted a smaller one so Trevor took Ken’s and Ken got a little Acer Aspire. Based on reviews we ordered online so we could get the 6 cell battery which lasts up to 6 hours. We found the best deals with free shipping on Buy.com and had the delivery in about 3-4 work days standard shipping.

Ken and I are not very good at sharing laptops. We both have very personal preferences on how things are set up. When I no longer had my laptop from work we decided that since we were so happy with the Acer we’d order a second one.

These are set up beautifully for our way of using laptops. They come with a slot for the camera memory card, 3 USD ports, and even a speaker and webcam if you want to use Skype. I expected that the smaller keyboard would be a pain but within a few minutes I was able to key as quickly as on a standard keyboard. Because they are so small and lightweight, we bought a protective sleeve for mine so I can carry it in my purse—with free wifi popping up everywhere, we are going to see if it’s a big deal not to have our own $60 a month air card. The other thing that Ken really likes is that these little Acers come with Windows XP instead of Vista. He really hates Vista!

Wednesday they delivered our hardwood flooring and Ken figured out how to fix the A/C blower on the motorhome. Thursday I mowed the grass, Ken played golf and then we went shopping at the local farmers market. Friday I did a walk and lunch with the ladies from work and Ken did lunch with his Friday lunchtime buddies. Friday evening our friends, the Ellsworths from Atlanta, GA joined us for pizza and to play croquet. Kyle and Jenni came back to Quincy for the weekend to attend a wedding so we did some used furniture shopping with them on Saturday. On Sunday they went to Kmart and bought a 7-piece patio furniture set on “blue light” special. Sunday was also our day to start organizing for our next outing—pick up prescriptions, menu planning and groceries, laundry.

Before leaving our home base we thought we’d leave you with some pictures of our backyard gardening efforts.

Our backyard would definitely be missed by both Ken and me if we choose next year to go full-time, but then it is also part of the burden of having to get back to Quincy in order to keep things in order.

Next post, we’ll introduce you to Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Recreation Area.
Hugs, C

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Dog Who Ate the Motorhome

Hi, this is Sox.

I wanted to write this post since, you see, there are two sides to every story, especially the one’s where Mom and Dad are particularly perturbed at me and/or Ditka. For some reason, on this particular travel episode, it seems to be me who has been in that situation.

Strike One

Wednesday night Dad’s back was bothering him so he moved to the couch during the night where he can sometimes get better situated to sleep. I like this since it gives me a little niche on the edge of the couch arm where I can comfortably wrap myself over his feet and fall asleep.

Then, without warning there was that horrible loud cracking sound from the skies outside. My heart made such a huge lurch that I was 2 feet above Dad’s feet before the sound had finished. Quick, run for cover! It’s the evil rumbling storm monster! In a snap I was in bed with Mom-- best way to get her attention being to land directly on her head. She pulled me down to her chest under the covers and consoled me, “Shhh, Soxie, it’s just a little storm” How did she know? This thing sounded big, mean and really nasty and headed our way. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t seem to get quite close enough to the sound of Mom’s heartbeat to eliminate the sounds outside. After about an hour of my nervous repositioning, Mom was getting pretty frustrated with me.

The next morning, it was pretty apparent from Mom’s conversation with Dad that I was not on her most favored list right now.

Strike Two

Ok, so then we’re at Thursday. Mom and Dad took Ditka and I along to visit Kyle’s new house. While they did all the handy-people jobs, Ditka and I sunned ourselves in the backyard. Dad had made extra sure that our stakes were well planted since there were lots of neat new attractions in the area to catch our attention, including the gigantic Collie next door named Lucky. Her owner’s, Bob and Judy had introduced themselves and Mom commented about Lucky being beautiful and very well behaved – ok, so rub it in Mom—I already know I’m not on most-favored-list today but I’d really prefer that dog-adoration stayed closer to home!!

Anyway, after lunch it was getting pretty sticky hot so Mom and Dad decided it was best to turn on the AC and bring Ditka and I inside for awhile. We really like Kyle’s house since there’s lots of new rooms to explore. Unfortunately, Mom had strategically placed some boxes so we couldn’t afternoon nap on the cushy living room furniture.

Then I saw it, that nice screen door onto the back deck. Sometimes when Mom and Dad went back and forth it didn’t look like it was latching all the way. Ok, that’s just too much for any pure-blooded Shiba to pass up. When the coast was clear I eased my way to the door and nosed it a bit. YIPPEE!! With one swift headbutt I bolted out the door and off to wherever my four feet could carry me as fast as they could carry me --- ADVENTURE!!!

Apparently Dad must have looked up just in time to see my wily escape because as I bounded from the deck I heard him yell my name and something that sounded like that other word for what comes out of my backside. No, Dad, I didn’t need that kind of walk right now!
There are just so many new things to sniff and sights and sounds to investigate.

I won’t bore you with a play-by-play of all the great smells and new places I passed, but after a while I came across a little boy. Ok, next to the freedom of bolting a door my next passion is being cuddled by little kids – this must be heaven!

Apparently Dad and Mom were both panicked since there was a busy street nearby and they don’t think I’m capable of handling traffic--not sure what that means. There was an all out search going on. Mom and Dad have learned that my fellow canines often tend to give away my location since they tend to bark at anyone new in the neighborhood. So, Dad was walking the neighborhood in whatever direction he heard dogs barking.

Little Boy’s mom came down from the porch when she saw us playing. She picked me up, she looked at my tags and took me and Little Boy in to the house. I heard her on the phone and within a few minutes there was Dad – drat!! – busted!! Ah well, it was fun while it lasted!!

A BIG Strike Three

On Saturday, Mom and Dad said there were going to be lots of people at Kyle’s house and based on my latest bolting incident they couldn’t risk taking Ditka and me in to town with them. That meant that the two of us had to spend the day in the RV.

Ditka likes to look out the windows and bark at every animal and leaf that flitters by so while it was my fault that we were confined to the RV, it was his fault that Mom and Dad also closed all the curtains. The AC was on so it was dark, cool and comfy but I just couldn’t find that comfortable den-like corner to make my own.
As the day went on I did some exploring.

I found that if you go all of the way to the front of the RV, in front of the driver’s seat, and even in front of the gas pedal – all the way up there in a dark corner, there is a hole, just barely big enough for me to squeeze through. How’s that for finding the perfect little fox den!

I eased my way in. It was tight and there were all kinds of stiff wormlike things dangling everywhere so it was hard to find my way around but it appeared I had found a perfect new nest. As I began my signature circle move, I found that all of those dangling worms seemed to get themselves all wrapped around me.
Ok, so maybe this isn’t so perfect.
I decided to make my exit but the worms wouldn’t let me. Panic! The worms had me. No matter which way I rolled and turned and kicked at those worms there just seemed to be more and more, grabbing me tighter and tighter. I growled at them, and I even started biting them. Even when I chewed on them they wouldn’t seem to let go. I whined to Ditka and he whined back but neither of us knew what to do. I just kept fighting those stiff nasty worms until finally I was exhausted.

It must have been at least 2 hours later when I heard the motorhome door open. It was Mom and Dad! At last!

“Where’s Sox?” they asked Ditka.

I responded with the most mournful whine I could muster.

“Where is she?” “I can hear her but I can’t find her! Geez, it sounds like her whimpering is coming right out of the dash!”

There were a lot of words after that probably not appropriate for this blog as Dad’s arm suddenly came in from behind the gas pedal and grabbed my backside. He tried to pull me out but by this time the worms, he called them wires, were grabbing me so tight it hurt to move, so I yelped in protest.

Dad decided his only option was to come at me from the frontside. So he took off the plate below the dashboard.

This was some relief for me since now at least I could see daylight and Mom and Dad. They both tried reaching in to untangle me but I guess I’d done a pretty good job of it and those nasty wire worms were not going to let go.

At about this time Dad was using more of those words and saying something about me costing them thousands of dollars. Mom just looked worried as she ran from place to place as tool chaser for Dad as he tried to figure out options.

Dad began removing the dash and the attached wireworms. With each small step he’d call out to Mom the color of the worms and what they were attached to, like the generator, the air horn, the battery backup, the radio, the backup camera, the trip computer, the temperature control, the heat/AC switch, the heat/AC blower switch. Mom would write it down, then Dad would see if removing those wires got him any closer to getting me untangled. After a while he had the whole dash loose and the backup camera out and the radio removed. It was only then that he could unravel enough of the wire worms in enough directions that I was finally free.

I understand now that was apparently the easy part.

Mom fixed Dad something to eat and then Dad spent the next six hours fixing the wireworms I’d chewed and putting them all back one at a time where they were suppose to go. Mom took us for our before bed walk. Dad wanted to attack this job without distraction so Mom took us into the bedroom to read with her.

There was tension in the air the next morning when Dad went through a full test to be sure everything was working. Dad had done it! Mom called him a hero! Well almost a hero since every single thing was back and functioning properly except for the blower motor.
Dad spent the next two hours tracing that. He even called Coach-Net and Coachmen and in the end still had no answer. Since we could get home without the blower and just use the coach A/C if it was hot on the drive it really wasn’t a crisis at the moment.

It didn’t take long for the word to get out in the campground about what I had done and I became the talk of the neighborhood. Small town that it is, someone at Kyle’s law office even asked him about it!! On of the park attendants was driving by on his ‘gator’ and stopped with a piece of wire in his hand and asked Dad if I wanted a snack!

After we were home, Dad started some more ‘networking’ and got a final suggestion of some added blower wiring to look for. Sure enough, there was a separate wireworm in there that I had apparently wrestled right off of the front-firewall. Once Dad fixed that, the blower was operating again and he attained true hero status with Mom!

Dad thought it necessary to also plug up that hole in the unlikely event I should decide to take on those dastardly wireworms again.

Ok, well this trip was a particularly interesting adventure for me and I thought it best you hear my side of the story!! Hey it’s not every day that I can make Dad a hero in Mom’s eyes!!

Lovin’ Licks,

Saturday, July 11, 2009

'Work Week' in Carlinville - July 6 to 11

Monday, July 6th we returned to Carlinville.

The highlight of this drive for me was getting to actually be the driver of the motorhome as far as Jacksonville. I even conquered my fear of the Valley City Eagle Bridges which are pretty intimidating with their short siderails when you’re in a tall motorhome. There seems to be nothing but a long, long drop between you and the Illinois River below!!

Ken is not keen on paying the new increases in Illinois State park fees over the main summer holiday weekends including the day before and day after so he wasn’t going to stay at Beaver Dam Monday night. Instead we decided to try our luck as parking in Kyle’s new back yard.

Ken did a marvelous job of navigating all the low-hanging wires and narrow alleyway to get the coach nicely situated. Some of Kyle’s new neighbors were watching in shock and awe as he negotiated the obstacles with less than inches to spare!

However, once we were set, we began to have second thoughts about the wisdom of our plan. The ground seemed to be a lot softer than we’d anticipated even after more than a week without significant rainfall. Ken put big blocks under all the jacks in hoping not to dent the lawn too badly. I couldn’t figure out why every time I had the rig level, when I’d go back it showed that it was leaning slightly. It became obvious the next morning when we prepped for departure why I'd been having this problem. I was really lucky I hadn't messed up the leveling system. The rear passenger jack had driven Ken’s nice big block over a foot into the ground leaving an almost perfect 12x12 square hole in the middle of Kyle’s backyard. Ken will have to get himself another block because that one was beyond digging out.

One of the first purchases for Kyle was a spade which I put to quick use in filling in the hole we’d made!

Wednesday afternoon all the new appliances arrived from Wernsings in Litchfield.

With the refrigerator and stove in place it really started feeling like a real home.

The washer and dryer are my favorite additions since this means Kyle won’t be showing up every few weeks at our house with 7 loads of laundry dumped in my kitchen!

Kyle still might decide to have Dad run hookups for the dishwasher at a later date but for now it seems to be working out quite nicely as a portable, without Ken needing to build a separate cabinet for it.

Ken had a list as long as his arm of things to do, such as changing positions of cabinets, patching and painting walls, fixing mis-wired 3-way switches, fixing baseboard, replacing overly feminine wallpaper border, planing doors so they don’t rub, moving closet rods to better fit the length of Kyle’s suits and coats, getting the mailbox moved and attached to the house.

Overall, the more he worked on the house, the happier Ken was with what he found. It seems to be well-built with no big ugly surprises.

Meantime, I did a lot of the ‘go for’ work. Example: find a 'manly' border to go over the frill flowers in the master bedroom. Also, the sidecap on one of the kitchen cabinets was missing so I went on a hunt for a match which I finally found. That piece is on order but will not show up in time for Ken to put on this visit. The items for next visit are already adding up!!

I also did frequent runs back to the apartment to fill up the jeep with boxes of everything that I could move on my own. I had all but the apartment bedroom and bath done by Thursday and those Kyle wanted left to him.

Friday I put the kitchen and new appliances through their paces bringing in a batch of our laundry from the RV to try out the new washer and dryer (wow, taking laundry to my kids' house—how’s that for a turnabout!!). I prepared a meatloaf, baked potatoes, corn on the cob and watermelon in Kyle’s new kitchen for dinner. It’s always a bit of a challenge to take a cook out of her own kitchen (ok, so there’s no dried mustard for my meatloaf…I’ll improvise with regular French’s mustard…it works)… But the kitchen itself proved out nicely right down to passing off to the dishwasher to do the finale dinner cleanup while we headed off , with full tummies and renewed energy to do the final cleanup on Kyle’s apartment.

By Friday evening, with my slow but steady 6 block treks of moving boxes in the jeep, we had everything out of the apartment except the bed, chest and sofa. Ken and Kyle pitched in to do the final room-by-room cleaning so that by 9pm Friday night everything was ready for Jenni to move in Saturday.

We returned briefly back to Kyles for a nighttime snack of some more of the watermelon and then left him for his first overnight in the house.

One of the law firm partner’s dropped by Kyle’s house Saturday morning with a large batch of Italian Beef his wife had made for Kyle and Jenni for their moving day. They even brought the Italian buns, pepper jack cheese and sweet peppers to round out the building of really awesome sandwiches. I can’t tell you how thankful I was for this since the Mom in me was still struggling with the timing of how and when I was going to provide lunch for the group. With chips, fruit, lemonade and beer to accompany we were set in that department.

Jenni and her moving crew arrived in Carlinville about noon on Saturday. Carol and Shannon brought 3-month old baby Oaklee who Ken and I hadn’t met yet so that was an added treat for us. They also had grandma and grandpa along. Grandma was in charge of grandson duties and Grandpa provided an added trailer and crew chief for Jenni who had overflowed the box truck she had rented. It’s amazing how much more stuff she was moving compared to Kyle! I guess it’s a woman vs man thing.

Kyle and Jenni are very lucky to have such devoted friends because it was a long, hot and tiring day.

Ken and I decided by late-afternoon that the group had things well under control and since they were winding down to relax and watch a movie we decided to head back to the state park.

I’ll leave what was waiting for us back at the RV for tomorrow’s installment., but let’s just say that the ‘adventure’ definitely took an unexpected turn Saturday evening.

Hugs, C

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

July 4th Annual Croquet Tournament and Picnic

We arrived back in Quincy from Carlinville late Thursday afternoon. Kyle arrive about 8pm and Trevor and his friend Chris Vaccaro, the center for the EIU Panthers, arrived later in the evening.

It's good that we always keep plenty of breakfast supplies around since Friday morning we ended up with breakfast for 9 as bodies kept resurrecting from the basement where they'd sacked out after partying the night before. I'd much rather have the guys' friends spend the night than drive after they have been partying.

On Saturday, the weather did not want to cooperate. We were thrilled that niece Monica, her husband, Phil and daughters were able to join us since they aren't often back in Quincy from Baltimore. Monica is on left, Phil in center, during one of the few times it wasn't raining and croquet was in full swing.

We beat a hasty retreat to the garage with the food tables when the rain decide to come full-force about the time the brats were ready.

There was a circle of folks settled in the garage

and some on the front porch

Needing some level of competition, the guys resorted to Euchre

All in all, everyone seemed to have a great time despite the obstinate weather!

By 10pm Ken and I had everything back in order.

On Sunday we had a big evening meal for the guys of baked chicken, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cauliflower with cheese sauce and garlic cheddar biscuits. By 9pm Sunday it was quiet at the homestead and Ken and I were bedding down, in prep for getting back on the road Monday.

Hugs, C

Friday, July 3, 2009

The First Day(s) of the Rest of Our Lives

Ok, I’m still not feeling retired but the fact that I’m not tethered to the job via Blackberry is starting to feel strange.
The sleeping Tuesday night was wonderful with temps in the low 60’s and the campground so quiet that we didn’t get up until after 7:00. I enjoyed my coffee under the awning and a walk with the dogs before Ken cooked up potatoes and eggs for breakfast.

We didn’t get in to Kyle’s house until after 10am, but Ken immediately went to work.
Whoever owned the house had really short-changed some of their remodeling efforts. For example, rather than hard wire the bathroom vanity light, they had the cord running to a plug-in. Ken dove in to that wiring project and sent Kyle and I to the hardware store.

I'll give you a quick photo tour of Kyle's first home...

As you drive up to the house there's a nice relatively new drive. The front door leads in to the living room to your right and the master bedroom to the left.

Before we go in we'll drive around back. In the back of the house is the small garage. It does not actually have a driveway. Apparently when they added the kitchen and deck on the back they changes all the back entries from the west side of the house to the east. The large covered patio has a door in to the utility room with the kitchen to the far back of the house.

So let's go in through the back door.

There is a large back hallway/utility area. As you see, this is where Ken has set up 'shop'.

To your right from the utility is the kitchen. It has nice updated cabinetry, and countertops and 4 nice windows for plenty of natural lighting

There's pleny of room for a kitchen table.

Off the utility/hallway is the bathroom. This is where Ken had to hardwire the vanity light which the past owners simply had plugged in to the outlet.

He also had to work out a way to put supports behind the bathtub faucet.
While it appears that they had recently remodeled they had not secured the pipes and the faucet was moving several inches in and out of the wall.

Walking back through the utility/hallway we get to the large living room. All of the ceilings are 9 foot high and have ceiling fans.

The master bedroom is reached from the front part of the living rooom.

There's a door next to the master that leads to the staircase to the 2nd level.

The 2nd floor bedroom is made up of all 3 of the small roof gables.

The second mainfloor bedroom is reached from the other end of the living room. It's obvious from the paint colors that this was a child's room.

The only entrance to the basement is from the back porch but it has a new set of doors and is underroof so really not too bad.

There is a surprising amount of storage room in the basement.

Ok, that's about it for the tour. We're back on the back porch looking out toward the front of the house and at Kyle's car. One of Ken's next projects is to put an outdoor water spicket on that basement wall to your right. The only spicket now is now the far side of the house which isn't of much use since there isn't anything over there!!

Oh, before we leave, take a look at the backyard. It's nice and big with a large alley. In fact, we will probably park the motorhome there on occasion when we are only staying for a short time.

One of the things I love about small town living are the stores. People at the hardware store are really helpful and Kyle always seems to be running in to people he knows.

After we delivered the items from the store, Kyle and I made the next important trip which was shopping for the major appliances he would need. Kyle ended up purchasing from ‘Big Ed’ in Litchfield—new refrigerator, gas range, washer, dryer and dishwasher. Big Ed was quite the talker and we learned a lot of local history in a very short time including that their were lots of local Frerich's families but they spelled their name with an 'h' not a 'k' and were Lutheran not Catholic. We suspect that the 'h' spelling is actually the correct spelling anyway.

When we got back to the house there was a major deliberation over the dishwasher situation. There was no place for a dishwasher in the kitchen. Kyle and Ken had discussed building a cabinet area to house the unit, but the more we talked about it the more no one was convinced it was a good plan. So in the end, we called ‘Big Ed’ and told him to drop the dishwasher and we’d come over the next day and reconsider the portable he had there. I had a portable dishwasher decades ago and hated it so it wasn’t my first choice but based on the kitchen layout, we all decided that it might be the smarter move.

At lunchtime, Kyle treated us to the pizza buffet at Reno’s Italian Restaurant on the square. Great food and $7 for all the pizza, pasta, and salad you want with drink and tax included.
Ken’s afternoon project was one we hadn’t anticipated. Again, their seemed to be some less than professional workmanship done on the bathtub plumbing and the faucet moved all over in the wall. This turned out to be a bit of a challenge even for super-handyman Ken but after several hours, 2x4’s and expletives, he was successful in stabilizing the pipes. He was very surprised the home inspector had not found this because it was a mold and water-damage problem just waiting to happen.

A new outside dryer vent was needed and there were lots of places where wires were running in and out of the house that had not been caulked.
By 6pm we were all tired and called it a day.

Kyle said he’d rather just stay in town on his own for dinner so Ken and I enjoyed a quiet evening back at the RV. We did ham steak on the grill with noodles and peas. By about 7:30 Ken was saying “Is it dark yet, can I go to bed…omg, I’m sounding like I should be in a nursing home!!” He did a lot so its not surprising he was exhausted. It’s good that we will be heading home tomorrow afternoon so he doesn’t make himself sick trying to get everything done that he sees. Kyle doesn’t expect to buy a 90-year old house and have it in Ken-perfect condition in a week or two.

It was another lovely night for sleeping and I think we were both asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow.

Thursday morning, Ken suggested we ‘splurge’ and go to the restaurant on the lake for breakfast. Its really a comfortable little cafĂ© with great food, a wonderful view across the lake, and lots of hummingbirds visiting their many feeders on the cafe deck.

I learned something new from Ken based on the orders placed by the two old guys on either side of us. He said, “Both of those guys were probably in the military”. When I asked why he told me that there were two clues. One was that while both had on over-alls and work boots, the boots were spit-shine spotless. The other clue was that they ordered their eggs over hard. Apparently in WWII days in the army, the breakfast lines were always shorter for the guys who didn’t want their eggs over easy or medium, since the cooks were always breaking the yolks and had plenty over hard. After awhile, they guys who wanted plenty of eggs and didn’t want to have to wait learned to like their eggs that way. Now is that just a story from one of the older uncles or have other people heard that as well?

We were on the road to Litchfield by a little after 9am. ‘Big Ed’ wasn’t in so Kyle dealt with his son and decided to include the portable dishwasher instead of the built-in. The whole order is going to be delivered next Tuesday afternoon. Since Kyle works all of next week we’ll need to be there for the delivery. I’m really happy that he is patronizing a local smalltown dealer.
When we got back to the new house, we set ourselves in to scrupping down the siding in the patio area. It reminded me of what my Mom used to say when she’d come over to help clean at my first house. “Boy, it feels really good to clean here, because its so obvious that you’ve accomplished something when your finished!” I do believe that patio will probably be one of the most used areas of the property.

Stay tuned! Next installment will cover our brief return to Quincy for our annual Croquet tournament and picnic.